Long-range continuities in comparative and historical sociology: The case of parasitism and women’s enslavement

  • Fiona GreenlandEmail author


In this methods-building article, I show how attention to long-term continuities in female enslavement patterns helps us understand the emergence of the Black Atlantic. Slavery, I argue, is one form of human parasitism. I extend Orlando Patterson’s theory of human parasitism to examine the phenomenon of parasitic intertwining, wherein the forced labor of women became integral to broader social projects including household functioning, elite status maintenance, and population expansion. The thousand-year period between the fall of Rome and the rise of the transatlantic slave trade was once described as a rupture in European slavery, with serfdom gradually supplanting slavery. The mass capture, transport, and enslavement of women, however, continued even as male slaves and ex-slaves gained significant status changes. The entrenchment of women in zonal slave trades generated both a potent cultural logic and a structural blueprint for the transatlantic trade.


Human parasitism Female domestic labor longue durée historiography Culture Zonal slavery 



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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